Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Diamond-Studded Typewriter: Review

Well. The Diamond-Studded Typewriter (1958) by Carlton Keith was quite a pleasant little surprise. I had no idea what to expect from this volume when I added it to my already bulging bag of goodies at last year's Red Cross Book Fair. [That cover looks like he has laser beams shooting out of his body.] But I certainly wasn't going to pass on a first edition mystery with a nearly pristine dust jacket at bargain basement prices. [Don't ask me what that white splotch is...this is an actual scan of my cover and there is no splotch. Maybe there was something on the scanner....]

But enough preliminaries. What exactly do we have here? 

For starters we have James Garvin returning to his apartment after a trip to England and doing odd things with a typewriter, a few envelopes, and a beautiful diamond necklace. He no sooner finishes his little chores when an unknown (to the reader) person comes sneaking in through the kitchen and shoots him. 

Next up, we have Jeff Green--documents expert who specializes in identifying/verifying handwritten and typewritten materials. Jeff is brought into the case by Alice Anthony on behalf of her mother and herself. Her mother has seen the picture of James Garvin in paper and swears that the murdered man is her delinquent husband. The women want Jeff to use his expertise to prove that James Garvin and Albert Anthony were the same person so they can make a claim on any property he has left behind. It seems that Anthony cleared out the couple's bank account when he disappeared twenty-some years ago--leaving his wife and daughter in difficulties. 

The Puzzle Doctor over at In Search of the Classic Mystery has been discussing the issue of spoilers. And let me assure you--and him--that it is no spoiler to tell you that we also have a very soft tip of the hat to The Maltese Falcon. We don't venture very far into the story before we know that there are all sorts of characters who are interested in A. James Garvin for personal and financial reasons, B. the diamond necklace which he was known to be carrying, C. other bits and bobs that may have come back with him from England, or D. more than one or all of the above. All of these characters believe Jeff Green can help them with what they want. And they aren't inclined to take no for an answer. 

Joining the Anthony women in the search for Garvin's identity and/or his property are a smooth Englishman with some very rough-edged henchmen, a husky-voiced femme fatale who claims the necklace really belongs to her, and Anthony's former partner who claims to just be interested for old-time's sake. So, we have three women who may or may not be telling Jeff the truth about what they know and what they're looking for. At least one definitely isn't. There are men who don't mind roughing him up a bit to get what they want and who don't think a thing about searching a man's apartment without his consent. And there's at least one of these characters who won't stop at murder to get what s/he believes to be their just dues.

This is a caper story of sorts--there's no mystery about where the necklace is, the reader knows that in the very first chapter. The real question is: Will Jeff find it before the murderer does? And just who is the murderer anyway? The climax comes at a lonely hunting lodge in the forests of New Jersey with Jeff up against a killer who will make Jeff the next victim if s/he can catch him in the woods.

I was very happy to be so pleasantly surprised by this one. I'd never heard of Carlton Keith and when I found out that this is a pen name for Keith Robertson, a writer of children's stories, I still didn't know who he was. But he put together a nifty little caper and a very likeable protagonist in Jeff Green. Jeff plays by his own rules--law-abiding citizen for the most part, but not above stretching a point here or there to ensure that justice as he sees it is done. Not a puzzle plot, but recommended as a fun, light read. ★★★★

This serves as the second part of the first clue in my second Movie Title Password with "-Studded." The complete clue is "Star-Studded."

8 comments:

fredamans said...

Lucky you to find a first edition in such good shape! Looks like a great story too! Great review!

bloodymurder said...

Sounds great Bev - bet I won't find as nuce an edition as yours, but ...

John said...

I've been wanting to try this writer. He worte a book with the very tantalizing title of The Crayfish Dinner (aka The Elusive Epicure) which got high praise from Barzun & Taylor. Plus, how can you pass up on a graphologist sleuth? Thanks for the extra push to get me looking for his books.

John said...

In checking his mystery bibliography I found out that he's primarily known under his legal name of Keith Robertson and he wrote mostly juvenile fiction. He wrote all the Henry Reed books I read as a kid. Do you remember Henry Reed's Baby Sitting service? I do with fondness.

John said...

Oops... I didn't scroll down to the very last paragraph where you mention this. Sometimes I read about the book and fire off a comment before I finish reading the entire post!

Bev Hankins said...

John: Thanks for your comments--and I'm just a bit full of myself now that I know I've tried someone before you did! Hope you get hold of a good copy and enjoy it when you do.

Yvette said...

This is an author I've never heard of, Bev. But I enjoyed your review. I'd probably like reading this too. You are always scoring these reading coups - I'm SO jealous.

Bev Hankins said...

Yvette: I just get lucky. Bloomington is a good town for this--with the university and so many book-lovers.